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In Hiding on a Dutch River Houseboat

Heroes Remember

In Hiding on a Dutch River Houseboat

I saw a houseboat anchored beside the edge of the river and there was an elderly woman, a woman about sixty, I would think, washing in the washtub, so I went up to her and, and said I was an Englishman, she said, “Come on in. Come,” she said in Dutch and into the houseboat and when her family came home there was, she had a husband and a son and two daughters and there was I guess a family conference and they told me they would keep me as long as, for a while anyway and the son gave me his bedroom and I was very thankful for this because I was, I’d been injured some and it was getting very painful. That was a blessing for me, somewhere to hide for that period and I stayed with that family for six weeks. And the oldest daughter, Jane, worked in a clothing factory and in the clothing factory working near her was a man who she knew had been an officer in the Dutch Army and she made special friends with him for two or three weeks after my arrival and then it went on for more than a month and then she was, got enough trust of him in that she confided with him that they had me hidden up in their houseboat and he came and took a photograph of me and I gave him, and he took one of my dogtags, the personal identification that you wore around your neck, and departed. And then the family were informed, some time later, that arrangements had been made for me to travel to the south of Holland and across the border into Belgium. On this great day when it arrived, I was to go to the railway station South Bommel and Mr. Peggy (sp.) went on his bicycle to, to the station and Jane took me on her, on, on her bicycle on the handlebars the ten miles or so to South Bommel because I couldn’t ride a bicycle well enough to be inconspicuous in Holland, because everyone in Holland rode, learned to, learned to ride bicycles as soon as they learned to walk and anyone that was unfamiliar with a bicycle was a dead give away that you were a, a fraud. I was supplied with the fishing gear, a fishing pole and to make it look as if we were, and some other gear that I carried, to make it look as if we’re a couple of local people out fishing in the canal.

His efforts to remain hidden from the occupying Germans in Holland is helped along through a chance meeting with an elderly woman, a member of a family who lives on a river houseboat.

John Angus MacLean

Mr. MacLean’s father was a farmer in eastern Prince Edward Island. His grandfather came to Canada from Scotland in 1832. Mr. MacLean had three brothers and four sisters. Two of his brothers died, one at the age of fiveand the other at the age of about one year. For the first two years of his higher education, Mr. MacLean attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He went on to the University of British Columbia for his third year of study on a one-year scholarship, majoring in chemistry. In 1938, he returned to Mount Allison University to complete his studies and graduated in 1939. Following graduation, he answered a newspaper advertisement placed by the Royal Air Force for a short-term commission with the RAF. He was chosen as one of two successful Canadian candidates. But, before he could leave for England, the Second World War had started and he was offered a commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he accepted. Mr. MacLean’s bomber was brought down over Germany and he and his crew were forced to bail out. Mr. MacLean landed just inside occupied Holland and was moved along the Comet Line through Holland, Belgium and France to freedom in Spain. He’s an excellent story-teller with emphasis on detail. Mr. MacLean also had an outstanding post-war career as a politician. He served for 10 terms as a Member of Parliament and a term as Premier of his home province of Prince Edward Island.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Angus MacLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Bomber Command

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